December 3, 2015

FSG publishing anonymously authored Silicon Valley satire—all 18 pages of it


The final page of Iterating Grace displays a tweet by venture capitalist Andrew Parker.

The final page of Iterating Grace displays a tweet by venture capitalist Andrew Parker.

In June of this year, MobyLives wrote about Iterating Grace, a 2,001 word chapbook making fun of, while making its way around, Silicon Valley.

Now, according to Alexandra Alter at The New York TimesFarrar, Strauss & Giroux has published the 18-page tech-world satire as a paperback original with a 10,000-copy print run.

The anonymously authored book tells the story of an “inexhaustible foot soldier of the first dot-com boom” named Koons Crooks, who embarks on spiritual quest that leads to a volcano in Bolivia. Living in a yurt, Crooks spends his days transcribing the tweeted 140-character wisdom of venture capitalists, only to realize:

“The answers he’d been searching for had been there, in the Bay Area’s innovation economy, all along—articulated, unwittingly, by an elite class of entrepreneurial high priests. Crooks could see that now, from his new vantage point, 5,300 miles away from Silicon Valley and 12,000 feet in the sky. “Angel investor = herald, messenger. Message = Hello, World!” he scrawled beneath an illustration of beets in Chez Panisse Vegetables.”

Per its subtitle, the book gives us Heartfelt Wisdom & Disruptive Truths from Silicon Valley’s Top Venture Capitalists, including Chris Sacca (“Good stories always beat good spreadsheets”), Paul Graham (“If you try to outlaw the future it will just happen somewhere else”), Jeff Nolan (“I am not a bot! I am a human being! I am a man!”), Brad Feld (“Note to self: Not happy with the game? Change the game”), and Andrew Parker (“Decentralization of everything”).

Only 140 copies were printed in the initial guerrilla publication, each of which was anonymously (and creepily) delivered to venture capitalists and the tech journalists who write about them (among the recipients were tech editors and writers at Fusion, Buzzfeed, MotherJones, San Francisco Magazine, and Re/Code)—the self-perpetuating spectacle that is San Francisco, the very one which Iterating Grace mocks.

As Svati Kirsten Narual at Quartz reports, the anonymity of the book inspired an array of speculative articles and blog posts, much of which exceeded the length of the original manuscript itself—Silicon Valley’s own whodunit. Moreover, why? 

Alexis Madrigal, the editor in chief of Fusion and one of the first recipients of Iterating Grace, told The New York Times: “Everyone assumed it must be corporate hackery, because who does this just for fun? It’s so weird in this day and age to just do an art project.”

Hmm. A tech writer failing to grok the utility of an art “project” unless as a vehicle for #marketing. Maybe the answer to “Why?” isn’t so unfathomable.



Ena Brdjanovic is Director of Digital Media at Melville House.